Before we get going on new basketball assistant Greg Vetrone, he describes in his own words why everyone calls him “Shoes.”
“As crazy as it is, it’s a family nickname. When I was growing up, I grew up in a neighborhood in Woodside, Queens. My parents worked. When I was about seven or eight, they used to drop me off at my cousins’ house. My two older cousins were my best friends in the world – like my brothers. They brought me up. They had a bedroom where I could touch both of their beds. So imagine, one’s in college and one’s in high school. I go there in the summer – ‘let’s play whiffle ball. Let’s play basketball.’ They’d say ‘you’re like a little shoeshine boy on 42nd street.’ Back then, when you came off the subways or the busses, you had guys pester us like that. And then it was the little shoe shine boy. And then it’s shoes. I had that name since I was eight, I’m 52. It’s incredible.
For new Rutgers basketball assistant Greg “Shoes” Vetrone, it all started in the interview process. Vetrone emerged as a candidate for one of two coaching vacancies based on the recommendations of assistant Van Macon and Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
Vetrone described the interview as unlike any other as he and Eddie Jordan hit it off. It ended with his hiring alongside Mike O’Koren for the two vacancies.
“I’ve been on a lot of interviews in my life, but I’ve never been on an interview where I felt like I did with coach Jordan,” Vetrone said after a workout at the RAC. “I told Eddie this. If I didn’t get hired, we would have been friends. We just had so many common philosophies. Our years had just intertwined. It was just such a natural interview process for me. When I left, it felt good.”
Vetrone has a resume filled with all sorts of basketball jobs. The 52-year old Queens native has a more diverse basketball background than anyone else on staff.
Prior to a short string as FDU’s head coach, Vetrone was everyone from a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers to a recruiting coordinator at UNLV to consulting for the Grass Roots/Reebok high school program.
Look for Vetrone to use that experience immediately in workouts and on the recruiting trail.
“I’m trying to find my way around, and maybe work on the defensive end a little bit, because [Jordan] is the master of the offensive game,” Vetrone said. “Maybe I can help him out a little defensively. He has coach O’Koren, and they go back a long time. They’ve coached together. I’m just here to fill in the empty spots.”
Jordan took his time in both basketball hires, but his staff is in place going into the July recruiting periods. The entire staff will be ready to hit the road recruiting, and Vetrone expects to pick up where he left off.
“I think that’s the biggest [advantage] right now for me,” he said. “The way the rules are set up, these are guys that I’ve worked with. … Most of the guys are still in it. For me to get out there, it’s not foreign to me. It’s natural. It comes easy. I was the director of the Reebok camp that’s coming up last year when I got let go from Fairleigh Dickinson. They called me back.”
Question and Answer
Question: -- How could your international background impact recruiting?
Answer -- “Sometimes right now, especially in the early stages of the Big Ten, you have to think outside the box a little bit. Look what Gonzaga has done. Look at some of these school that have made the tournament have done. You’ve got one or two international guys that can become impact players, it can really help you quickly.”
Question: -- What do you see when you look at this Rutgers roster?
Answer: -- “Our guards are probably as good as any guards in the Big Ten when you talk about Bishop [Daniels] and Myles [Mack]. Kadeem [Jack] can play anywhere, and Greg [Lewis]. Obviously moving into the new league, the biggest thing for us is going to be style of play. This is a lot different than the American Conference when you watch those teams play, which might be a positive for us because it’s more of a grind-it-out league.”
Question: -- What will you tell recruits about Rutgers when you hit the road?
Answer: -- “I didn’t realize until I interviewed for the job and started doing the research on what an acclaimed place this is academically. So now you’ve got the academics. Now, let’s be realistic. You have an NBA coach – two NBA guys on the staff. Then you’re going into a league – the Big Ten. Then geographically where it’s at, if any kid wants to make it – forget about just playing basketball – in the world, you have New York City, Philadelphia. Look what you have here. Then you’re talking about the Big Ten, and media wise the Big Ten is the best conference. What they did with the Big Ten Network … I have a chance now. If there’s six bullets, I have four. I have to try to make up the other two. I have four bullets when you talk about the school, the pro coach, the geographical area and the Big Ten. … I think the other thing that’s huge, we have great kids.”